10 months ago


Expect the Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected The Phoenix Art Space that Defies Categorization By Jeffery Kronenfeild 12 JAVA MAGAZINE

A long-lost Salvador Dalí masterpiece, a murderous cuckold, a host of female cannabis entrepreneurs and, of course, art, lots of art—what do all these things have in common? They’re all unexpected, and yet, at the Unexpected Art Gallery in Phoenix, you quickly learn to expect that. Auction-company entrepreneur John Lines and his wife, Sammy, founded the Unexpected Art Gallery in 2012. Since then, the gallery has hosted a range of art exhibitions: “The Veteran Vision Project,” by photographer Devin Mitchell, featuring images of veterans in and out of their uniforms to highlight PTSD; “(Ink)arcerated: Creativity within Confinement,” a show facilitated by ASU featuring works by current prisoners in Arizona; “Crystals and Lasers,” by Francisco Flores, featuring video and photographic works exploring the convergence of spirituality and technology—and that’s just to name a few. The gallery also plays host to a wide range of events, including meetings of Women Grow, a group dedicated to supporting female cannabis entrepreneurs, on the first Thursday of each month; a graffiti mural live painting event every Tuesday; full moon parties and more. On May 3 of this year, they launched Ustudios, a creative cooperative and studio space housed in the western portion of the building and run by the gregarious and energetic Shane Smith. For modern galleries in downtown Phoenix, it’s hard to sustain the ever-increasing rents, and this is particularly true for Unexpected, with its 10,000-plus square feet of space, A/C bills and other operating expenses. In addition to all the above-listed endeavors, the space is available for rent for private functions such as weddings or business and professional association meetings. For a modern art gallery and mixed-use space, it’s all part of the hustle. The vast openness of Unexpected is matched by the openness that Cherish Coole, director of operations, and Chelsea Rusing, director of sales, try to foster. Both explained repeatedly that Unexpected is open and safe to people of all backgrounds. On a given visit you might find yourself brushing elbows with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and a host of veterans, or partying late into the night with an eclectic ensemble of local characters. You’ll find none of the snootiness or elitism sometimes associated with traditional galleries. Instead, there is a friendly atmosphere where seemingly anything could happen. Coole is a bit of juggler. She has to be: the gallery is in a near constant state of flux. One day it serves as a meeting space for Women Grow, which sees the gallery turned into a theater. This monthly event regularly draws crowds of 100, 200 or more. The next day the chairs disappear, replaced by a massive, modular screen and a maze of temporary walls that workers are frantically hanging with art for the next show. Despite this, Coole and Rusing try to take the time to make all comers feel welcome. Running auction companies has naturally led Lines to accumulate a staggering array of, well, stuff. A helmet with what looks like ibex horns lies casually beside a pile of loosely bound scrolls, as if some sorcerer had just stepped out for a moment. There are hundreds of paintings, framed and unframed, sketches, statues, wood carvings and even a fullpiece papier-mâché mariachi band. While one might be inclined to label much of it junk at first glance, it was from this pile that Unexpected Gallery may have unearthed a long-lost Salvador Dalí painting. If it is authenticated, the painting stands to complete Dalí’s “William Tell” series. One expert said if the painting is authenticated, it could fetch upwards of $10 or $15 million at auction, though the actual sale price could be even higher. More on this later. As you might expect, Unexpected has a unique backstory. It was born out of one of Lines’ other ventures, Surplus Asset Management Auctions. SAM Auctions coordinates the sale of items from recently closed businesses, mainly through online auctions. From giant corporations like Fresh & Easy down to local mom-and-pop outfits, they work with a wide range of business types and sizes. While the closing of a business is usually a sad affair, Lines tries to get his clients the most for their assets. He tries to reuse and recycle materials that he can’t sell. In keeping with this philosophy, many of the elements within Unexpected are recycled, including its temporary walls on wheels that were salvaged. In 2012, Miller Store Fixtures closed and Lines acquired its 734 W. Polk St. location, which would become the site of Unexpected Gallery. The building is vast, perhaps one of the largest galleries in Phoenix in terms of raw square footage. Wedged on Polk Street between 7th Avenue and Grand Avenue, at that time the neighborhood was decidedly less advanced in the steady march from run down to gentrified. “It was a little bit of a scary neighborhood,” Lines said. Initially, the Lineses were JAVA 13 MAGAZINE

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